This article titled “Sweden limits public gatherings to eight people – as it happened” was written by Clea Skopeliti (now); Damien Gayle, Sarah Marsh, Kevin Rawlinson, Helen Sullivan and Ben Doherty (earlier), for theguardian.com on Monday 16th November 2020 23.46 UTC
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California will dramatically roll back its reopening efforts, the state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, announced on Monday, saying he was pulling the “emergency brake” amid a troubling surge in cases.
The changes, which take effect Tuesday, will see more than 94% of California’s population and most businesses across the state return to the most restrictive tier of rules aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. The state is also strengthening its guidance on masks; Newsom announced face coverings would now be required outside people’s homes with limited exceptions.
South Africa has recorded 1,245 new coronavirus cases and 73 further deaths.
The caseload stands at 752,269 , while 20,314 people have died.
The Australian state of Victoria has recorded its 18th day without a new coronavirus case or death.
You can read more about the coronavirus situation in Australia at our dedicated blog here.
Updated at 10.56pm GMT
Health authorities in South Korea are expected to tighten coronavirus restrictions as the number of new Covid-19 infections has risen by more than 200 for three consecutive days, according to a report in the Korea Times.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Monday that 223 new virus cases were confirmed on Sunday, bringing the country’s cumulative total to 28,769.
This was the ninth consecutive day that South Korea has seen triple-digit daily infections, and the highest daily increase since 2 September.
KDCA Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong said that daily infections may rise to 300 to 400 in two to four weeks if the current trend goes on, referring to risk factors including end-of-year gatherings and cold weather alongside the growing number of asymptomatic cases.
Updated at 10.32pm GMT
Japan is under growing pressure to reimpose a state of emergency after a record of 1,722 infections were registered on Saturday.
Cases are particularly high in the northern island of Hokkaido and the western prefectures of Hyogo and Osaka.
Hokkaido’s local government has said it will ask residents of Sapporo to stay at home after 189 new cases were reported in the prefecture on Monday, according to the Japan Times.
In Tokyo, cases have neared 400 in recent days, levels not seen since early August. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, however, has said the rising cases did not necessitate the reimposition of a state of emergency, or a halt to the government’s campaign to encourage domestic tourism.
The country’s cumulative total stands at over 119,300 cases, including some 700 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama in February. The nationwide death toll is more than 1,900.
Updated at 11.37pm GMT
Hull has been “forgotten” by central government as the city’s coronavirus cases have increased at an “astonishing and terrifying rate” to become the highest in England, its council leader has said.
Stephen Brady of Hull city council said it needed urgent national support but had received no contact from the government.
The number of coronavirus patients in Hull’s hospitals has passed the peak of the first wave and its infection rate has risen tenfold in barely five weeks.
Updated at 9.55pm GMT
Belgium has said it intends to make any coronavirus vaccine available to around 70% of the population, some 8 million people, and free of charge.
The jab will not be compulsory, added Frank Vandenbroucke, the health minister, as he and regional counterparts attended an interministerial health conference.
Belgium, with a population of 11.5 million people, has registered almost 540,000 cases of coronavirus and more than 14,000 deaths to date. Its death rate per million residents is one of the worst in Europe.
Joe Biden, the US president-elect has told a press conference that “more people may die” if Donald Trump continues to block efforts to plan for a transition of power as the coronavirus pandemic worsens, Reuters reports, and added that he would not hesitate to get vaccinated.
Biden also said business and labour leaders had signalled willingness to cooperate to fix the pandemic-battered US economy but stressed Covid-19 first must be brought under control and urged Congress to pass relief legislation.
You can follow all the developments on our dedicated US liveblog.
Here’s a quick summary of recent developments to get you up to speed.
- The US biotech firm Moderna has claimed that its Covid-19 vaccine is 94.5% effective, according to an interim analysis released on Monday and based on 95 patients with confirmed Covid infections. The company plans to apply to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use authorisation.
- Greeting the news, the head of the World Health Organization said a vaccine will not by itself halt the pandemic.
- Meanwhile, scientists have expressed hope that the preliminary success of mRNA vaccines could be a “leap forward” for fighting other diseases, including cancer.
- French health authorities have reported that the number of hospitalised coronavirus patients has increased by 416 to reach a new all-time high of 33,497, even as the number of new cases reached a more than one-month low.
- There have been a further 21,363 lab-confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK, according to government data, raising the cumulative total to 1,390,681. A further 213 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported on Monday, bringing the total to 52,147.
- Greece has reported 2,198 new coronavirus infections and 59 fatalities. The country’s caseloads stands at 76,403, while 1,165 have died.
- Norway’s minority government and the opposition party have agreed on an increased economic support package of 22.1bn Norwegian crowns (£1.84bn) amid the continuing coronavirus crisis.
- The United States registered more than one million new coronavirus cases last week as new infections rose in every state except for Hawaii, according to a Reuters analysis of state and county reports.
- A highly pathogenic strain of bird flu has been found in the pet section of a shop in one of Corsica’s main cities, the French farm ministry has announced. It follows Denmark ordering the culling of 25,000 chickens after detecting H5N8 bird flu on a farm.
Updated at 9.17pm GMT
Scientists are hopeful that the preliminary success of mRNA vaccines could be a “leap forward” for fighting other diseases, including cancer.
The initial success in late-stage trials by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech is the first proof the technology, which is much faster than traditional vaccine development, works.
“Unlike conventional vaccines, which are produced using weakened forms of the virus, RNA vaccines can be constructed quickly using only the pathogen’s genetic code,” the Pfizer website says.
The traditional method typically takes more than a decade – Moderna’s mRNA vaccine went from gene sequencing to the first human injection in 63 days.
“We’ll look back on the advances made in 2020 and say: ‘That was a moment when science really did make a leap forward’,” said Jeremy Farrar, director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, which is backed by the Wellcome Trust.
Moderna and BioNTech are also applying mRNA technology to experimental cancer medicines. None of the potential therapies have reached the critical large-scale Phase 3 trials, however, and experts acknowledges that cancer presents a bigger challenge.
A highly pathogenic strain of bird flu has been found in the pet section of a shop in one of Corsica’s main cities, the French farm ministry has announced.
In a statement, the ministry said all the birds in the shop have been euthanised.
France will be put on high alert level from Tuesday, it added.
It follows Denmark ordering the culling of 25,000 chickens after detecting H5N8 bird flu on a farm.
The cull will effectively stop the country’s poultry and egg exports to non-EU countries for a minimum of three months.
Updated at 8.10pm GMT
The United States registered more than one million new coronavirus cases last week as new infections rose in every state except for Hawaii, according to a Reuters analysis of state and county reports.
Deaths rose by 12% in the week ending 15 November and averaged more than 1,100 people per day.
Several states, including Michigan, North Dakota and Washington, imposed new restrictions on public gatherings and indoor dining to try to slow the spread of the virus.
Norway’s minority government and the opposition party have agreed on an increased economic support package amid the continuing coronavirus crisis.
At 22.1bn Norwegian crowns (£1.84bn), the overall package is an increase from the 17.7bn crowns initially offered by the centre-right cabinet of the prime minister, Erna Solberg, on 10 November.
“We want to give as much certainty as we can in an uncertain time,” the Conservatives’ finance spokesman in parliament, Mudassar Kapur, said in a statement.
Part of the economic package entails the renewed suspension of environmental measures throughout 2021, such as an air passenger tax. The government had already suspended the tax for 2020.
Updated at 7.46pm GMT
France’s coronavirus hospitalisations reach new record
French health authorities have reported that the number of hospitalised coronavirus patients has increased by 416 to reach a new all-time high of 33,497, even as the number of new cases reached a more than one-month low.
Covid-19 fatalities increased by 506, at 45,054, versus a seven-day moving average of 581. Infections rose by 9,406, compared to 27,228 on Sunday and way below the all-time high of 86,852 reached on 7 November.
Updated at 7.57pm GMT
Greece has reported 2,198 new coronavirus infections and 59 fatalities.
The country’s total caseload stands at 76,403, while 1,165 have died.
Here’s the Associated Press bureau chief for southeast Europe with a breakdown of where the infections were located:
Updated at 7.14pm GMT
There have been a further 21,363 lab-confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK, according to government data. This compares to 21,350 cases registered last Monday.
A total of 1,390,681 people have tested positive. The rise in cases over the last 7 days represents a 11.2% increase compared to the previous week.
A further 213 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported on Monday, bringing the total to 52,147. There were 194 last Monday.
Deaths have risen by 22% over 7 days compared to the previous week.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 67,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK, according to PA.
Updated at 7.10pm GMT
Headlines from today’s coronavirus-related news from around the world include:
- The US biotech firm Moderna has claimed that its Covid-19 vaccine is 94.5% effective, according to an interim analysis released on Monday and based on 95 patients with confirmed Covid infections. The company plans to apply to the Food and Drug Administration, for emergency-use authorisation.
- Greeting the news, the head of the World Health Organization said a vaccine will not by itself halt the coronavirus pandemic. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general, said: “It’s important to emphasise that a vaccine will complement the other tools we have, not replace them.”
- Sweden has limited public gatherings to eight people, down from a previous upper limit of 300, as the PM blamed a fall in adherence to infection control recommendations for an increase in infections. Sweden has drawn international attention for its unorthodox response to the pandemic.
- A plan to mandate mandatory face masks in schools in Germany was shelved after opposition from leaders of the country’s 16 states. A decision on further lockdown measures in Germany has been postponed until 25 November, the chancellor, Angela Merkel, said.
- UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, is self-isolating after coming into contact with an MP who has subsequently tested positive for Covid-19, Downing Street said on Sunday.The prime minister was present at a 35-minute meeting with a small group of Conservative MPs on Thursday morning.
- The US passed 11m coronavirus cases just one week after confirming its ten-millionth case. More than a million cases were recorded in the country over the last week, which saw four days in a row of world record infection totals.
That’s it from me, Damien Gayle, for the day.
A decision on further lockdown measures in Germany has been postponed until 25 November, the chancellor, Angela Merkel, has said, according to Reuters.
She met with state leaders earlier on Monday to discuss new restrictions, including compulsory face masks for schoolchildren, but no agreement was reached.
Merkel said a majority of state leaders did not want to see a tightening of restrictions before next week, but, she added: “I could have imagined imposing further contact restrictions today, but there was no majority for that.”
Philadelphia will ban all indoor gatherings and severely limit outdoor events as Covid-19 increases “exponentially” in the sixth largest US city, health commissioner Thomas Farley has said, according to Reuters.
Spain’s tally of coronavirus infections rose by 38,273 on Monday from Friday’s levels to hit a cumulative total of 1,496,864 in a new retreat from a weekend peak of over 55,000 reported on 2 November, health ministry data showed, according to Reuters.
The death toll rose by 484 to a total of 41,253.
Spain, one of the countries hardest hit by Covid-19, at the end of October imposed a six-month state of emergency, giving regions legal backing to implement curfews and restrict travel.
Donald Trump and Joe Biden offered sharply contrasting reactions on Monday to news of a coronavirus vaccine that proved nearly 95% effective in trials, write David Smith in Washington and Dominic Rushe in New York.
Rather than working to combat the virus, which is spreading faster than ever and on average killing more than 1,000 Americans a day, Trump has stayed focused on unsubstantiated claims that the presidential election was stolen.
Pharmaceutical giant Moderna said on Monday its experimental vaccine was 94.5% effective, based on interim data from a late-stage clinical trial.
“Another vaccine just announced,” Trump tweeted, seeking to claim credit. “This time by Moderna, 95% effective. For those great ‘historians’, please remember that these great discoveries, which will end the China Plague, all took place on my watch!”
Biden offered a more sober response to the announcement, which followed Pfizer saying last week its vaccine candidate had proved more than 90% effective in trials.
“Today’s news of a second vaccine is further reason to feel hopeful,” the president-elect tweeted. “What was true with the first vaccine remains true with the second: we are still months away. Until then, Americans need to continue to practice social-distancing and mask-wearing to get the virus under control.”
Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, has revealed he has begun talks with Russia about buying the country’s Sputnik V vaccine for Covid-19, according to Reuters.
“An hour ago I spoke with Russian president Vladmir Putin regarding the possibility of purchasing an option on the vaccine Sputnik-V,” Netanyahu told reporters. “We will discuss this in the coming days.”
Israel was early to sign with Moderna Inc for its potential vaccine, reaching an agreement in June. Last week it signed another deal with Pfizer Inc. Both companies have reported encouraging trial results.
Israel is also developing its own vaccine that, if successful, could be market-ready by the end of the summer.
“My goal is to bring as many vaccines from as many sources to as many citizens, as quickly as possible,” Netanyahu said.
Updated at 5.40pm GMT
The World Health Organization has said there is no time for complacency in confronting the coronavirus, despite positive news about possible vaccines.
“The quickest way to open up economies is to defeat the virus,” the WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told a virtual briefing in Geneva, according to Reuters.
He said G20 leaders would meet this weekend, giving them an opportunity to commit financially and politically to the Covax global facility, a fund set up to provide Covid-19 vaccines to poorer countries.
Several companies have published promising results with their vaccine candidates, but Tedros warned that people should not be complacent, adding:
Right now we are extremely concerned by the surge in Covid-19 cases we’re seeing in some countries. Particularly in Europe and the Americas, health workers and health systems are being pushed to breaking point.
More than 54.44 million people have been reported infected by the coronavirus globally and 1,318,042 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
Italy has registered 27,354 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Monday, down from 33,979 the day before, with the fall reflecting the usual drop in the number of swabs conducted on Sundays.
The ministry also reported 504 Covid-related deaths, down from 546 the previous day, according to Reuters.
There were 152,663 coronavirus swabs carried out in the past day, the ministry said, against a previous 195,275.
Italy has recorded 45,733 Covid-19 deaths since its outbreak emerged in February, the second highest toll in Europe after Britain’s, and 1.2 million cases.
The northern region of Lombardy, centred on Italy’s financial capital Milan, remained the hardest hit area on Monday, reporting 4,128 new cases, down steeply from 8,060 on Sunday.
The southern region of Campania, which has a far smaller population than Lombardy, recorded almost as many new infections on Monday, at 4,079.
Health campaigners have called on Moderna to share its vaccine technology to ensure the widest possible distribution, which at the moment has the highest price tag so far hung on a Covid-19 vaccine candidate.
The campaigners from Missing Medicines Coalition said that without action to broaden production of the mRNA jab, “serious affordability and access challenges lay ahead.”
In a release they said:
Even though Moderna has received .48 billion in public money to help develop the vaccine, it’s reported price tag of – per course is the highest cited for a potential vaccine so far.
This is more than ten times the expected price of other leading vaccine candidates. This makes Moderna’s vaccine vastly expensive for all countries, especially for lower income countries struggling in the global recession.
The organisation urged Moderna to share the vaccine, and the research and production techniques behind it, with the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool so that it can be manufactured and rolled out across the world.
Saoirse Fitzpatrick, advocacy manager at STOPAIDS, said:
It’s brilliant that we have another effective vaccine in the pipeline, but Moderna’s product is only going to make a difference in this pandemic if we can secure global access to it. If it is too expensive for health systems in low and middle income countries or if it ends up being rationed because the company and their contracted manufacturers can’t make enough, then its value is limited.
It doesn’t need to be this way. Moderna could be an industry leader and agree to share the knowledge of how to make this new vaccine with the rest of the world so all countries can treat their vulnerable populations. The UK Missing Medicines coalition, convened by STOPAIDS, urge them to do so.
The European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, has said her officials have concluded exploratory talks with Moderna, writes Daniel Boffey, the Guardian’s Brussels bureau chief.
Von der Leyen said:
We hope to finalise the contract soon. We do not know at this stage which vaccines will end up being safe and effective. The European Medicines Agency will authorise them only after a robust assessment. And this is why we need to have a broad portfolio of vaccines based on very different technologies in parallel.
The commission has a potential purchase agreement for 80m doses with Moderna with an option to double that amount.
Von der Leyen also announced on Monday that the commission had signed an agreement with the German company Curevac for 405m doses of its potential vaccine, contingent on it passing regulatory hurdles. It is the fifth such agreement secured by the EU’s executive branch.
Updated at 4.36pm GMT
The European commission wants to reach a deal with Moderna for the supply of millions of doses of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate for a price below per dose, an EU official involved in the talks said.
The EU has been in talks with Moderna for its experimental vaccine at least since July, an internal EU document seen by Reuters shows. Reuters first reported the negotiations in July. A deal might be reached in the coming days, the senior official involved in the talks said, adding that discussions were mostly focusing on the legal wording of the contract, but faced no major hurdles on issues such as price or liability.
The price being negotiated was below per dose, said the official, who declined to be more specific and asked for anonymity as the talks were confidential.
Moderna was not immediately available to comment.
The US paid Moderna per dose to secure 100m vaccines in a .5bn deal in August. That was on top of bn in funding for Moderna’s vaccine, effectively bringing the combined price to , according to the publicly released terms of the deal.
Washington has an option to buy another 400m doses for an undisclosed price.
Moderna’s vaccine is administered with a two-shot course.
Updated at 4.37pm GMT
The governor of the US state of Michigan has condemned as “incredibly reckless” a call by an adviser to the president, Donald Trump, to rise up against the state’s latest restrictions.
Speaking to reporters, Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s Democrat governor, insisted she has the authority to issue a second stay-at-home order to curb coronavirus transmission if necessary, the Associated Press reported. She has urged the public to “double down” with precautions to avoid a shelter-in-place order like what was instituted in the spring.
Responding to a tweet sent Sunday night by Scott Atlas, a science adviser to Trump, who urged people to “rise up” after the governor’s announcement, she said:
It’s just incredibly reckless considering everything that has happened, everything that is going on. We really all need to be focused on the public health crisis that is ravaging our country and that poses a very real threat to every one of us.
Trump himself has urged supporters to push Whitmer to reopen the state following Covid-19 restrictions. And 14 men have been charged in connection with an alleged plot to kidnap the governor.
Under the new restrictions that start on Wednesday, Michigan high schools and colleges must halt in-person classes, restaurants must stop indoor dining and entertainment businesses must close for three weeks. Gathering sizes also will be tightened.
Whitmer renewed her call for the Republican-led Legislature to codify a mask requirement in law in part to send a unified message to the public, calling it “the best weapon we have against our common enemy.”
Michigan’s seven-day average of daily new cases has more than doubled from 3,113 to 6,684 over two weeks – up nearly five-fold from 30 days ago. Daily deaths also have surged, from 25 to 62, according to The Covid Tracking Project. The number of patients currently in hospital, about 3,000, has risen six-fold in under two months.
The World Health Organization has recorded 65 cases coronavirus among staff based at its headquarters in Switzerland, including at least one cluster of infections, an internal email obtained by the Associated Press shows.
The revelation comes despite the agency’s public assertions that there has been no transmission at the Geneva site.
Farah Dakhlallah, a WHO spokeswoman, confirmed the accuracy of the information about the case count in an email to the AP, but said the UN health agency had not yet determined whether the spread happened at its offices.
Raul Thomas, who heads business operations at WHO, emailed staff on Friday noting that five people – four on the same team and one who had contact with them – had tested positive for Covid-19.
“As per standard protocols, these colleagues are receiving the necessary medical attention and are recovering at home,” the email Friday said. “These last five cases bring the total reported number of affected members of the Geneva based workforce to 65 since the beginning of the pandemic.”
Thomas’s email did not specify who was infected, but a WHO staffer with direct knowledge of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorised to speak to the press said the cluster included a member of the WHO director-general’s leadership team who is also an infection control specialist.
In normal times, an estimated 2,400 people regularly work at WHO’s seven-story headquarters overlooking Geneva. As the pandemic has swelled in the area, staffers have been encouraged to work from home when possible. Non-staff visitors have been required to wear masks, and access to the building has been curtailed.
On 2 November, the WHO’s technical lead for the Covid-19 response, Maria Van Kerkhove, told reporters there had been no transmission or clusters at headquarters, before adding: “But it is something that we’re monitoring every day.”
The WHO press office did not respond to two emails from the AP – on 2 and 10 November – asking how many staffers based at WHO headquarters had tested positive for Covid-19.
Updated at 4.38pm GMT
The governor of the US state of New Jersey has announced tighter restrictions on gatherings, indoors and outdoors, making it the latest state government to implement new rules in an attempt to curb coronavirus transmission.
A maximum of 10 people would be allowed to gather indoors in New Jersey, down from 25, while the limit for outdoor gatherings would drop from 500 to 150. The north-eastern state’s Democratic governor, Phil Murphy, said in an interview with MSNBC:
It’s gotten worse and it’s gonna get worse.
As total US infections crossed the 11 million mark – just over a week after hitting 10 million – states across the nation reimposed restrictions to stem the resurgent virus that is straining many healthcare systems, Reuters reports. Forty US states have reported record increases in Covid-19 cases in November, while 20 have seen a record rise in deaths and 26 reported record hospitalisations, according to a Reuters tally of public health data.
The latest seven-day average shows the US is reporting more than 144,000 daily cases and 1,120 daily deaths, the highest for any country in the world.
In Missouri, Dr Alexander Garza, the head of the St Louis metropolitan pandemic taskforce, said hospitals in the Midwestern state could run out of capacity in two weeks as cases continue to rise. Garza told CNN on Monday:
If this continues, we’re absolutely going to need more staff, more help, more of everything to deal with the crush of patients that we see coming at us.
Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, on Sunday ordered a ban on in-person high school and college classes as well as indoor dining service for three weeks starting on Wednesday as increasingly cold weather drives people indoors where the virus can spread more easily.
She banned public events at concert halls, casinos, movie theaters, skating rinks and other venues. In-home gatherings will be limited to 10 people from no more than two households.
The Democratic governor warned that without aggressive action her Midwestern state could soon suffer 1,000 Covid-19 deaths per week. Whitmer told a news conference:
We are in the worst moment of this pandemic to date. The situation has never been more dire. We are at the precipice and we need to take some action.
Another Democratic governor, Washington state’s Jay Inslee, announced a one-month ban on indoor services at restaurants and gyms, and a reduction of in-store retail capacity to 25%. Indoor gatherings would be prohibited outside of one’s household and outdoor gatherings would be limited to five people in the north-western state under Inslee’s order.
Updated at 3.49pm GMT
In Cyprus, people are flocking to have free antigen rapid tests in areas of the island that have been hard hit by coronavirus transmissions, writes Helena Smith in Nicosia.
After handling the pandemic’s first wave relatively well, the European Union’s easternmost state has seen a surge in cases with the Greek Cypriot government placing the country’s entire south-west under lockdown last Wednesday.
The restrictive measures, including a strict 8pm to 5am curfew, were enforced after infections soared in Limassol and Paphos, with rates leaping from 28% to 70% of the national average. At the time of the ban, two-thirds of Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital were from the area.
As part of the lockdown public gatherings are also prohibited, with all educational institutions being forced to operate online and government employees obliged to work from home.
“As in other countries, Covid-fatigue is the big problem that we have come to face in recent months,” the island’s minister of education, culture, sports and youth, Prodromos Prodromou, told the Guardian. “There is a lot of complacency among young people in particular and we are seeing a drop in the average age of Covid-19 patients from [age groups of] 60 to 50 in the beginning to 30 to 40 now.”
While teachers had accepted to conduct lessons remotely there has, he said, been fierce opposition from educators conducting online classes visually which has been a problem. “They are willing to be heard, but not seen,” he said.
Museums, archaeological sites, shops, theatres, cinemas, gyms, pools, hairdressers and beauty parlours have also been ordered to close in the region with the government promising aid benefits to alleviate the economic impact.
Officials will review the measures on 30 November.
The Cypriot health ministry confirmed yesterday that a further 127 people had contracted the virus, bringing the total number of cases in the island’s Greek-administered south to 7,178. The death of an 82-year-old woman marked the fortieth fatality since the pandemic began with 14 patients in intensive care in both Famagusta and Nicosia, the war-divided capital.
Mobile units, deployed by the health ministry, are conducting the rapid tests.
Updated at 3.14pm GMT
A plan to mandate mandatory face masks in schools in Germany has been shelved after opposition from leaders of the country’s 16 states, Reuters reports.
A draft of new measures, seen by the news agency, dropped earlier references both to school lessons being held with fewer pupils and plans to scrap an exemption from wearing masks for some elementary children.
It said instead that leaders of Germany’s 16 states would propose new measures to curb infections at schools next week.
Sweden limits public gatherings to eight people
Public gatherings in Sweden are to be limited to eight people, down from a previous upper limit of 300, the prime minister said on Monday, as he blamed a fall in adherence to infection control recommendations.
“This is the new norm for the entire society,” Stefan Lofven told a news conference. “Don’t go to gyms, don’t go to libraries, don’t host dinners. Cancel.”
Sweden has drawn international attention for its unorthodox response to the pandemic, shunning lockdowns and instead relying on voluntary measures, according to Reuters.
Sweden has so far recorded 177,355 cases of coronavirus, and 6,164 deaths. The country of 10.2 million’s death rate per capita is several times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours but still well below some larger European countries such as Spain and the UK.
Updated at 2.58pm GMT
Political rallies have been banned in Pakistan, after the country recorded its highest daily coronavirus infection numbers since July for four days running, according to Reuters.
Several huge religious and anti-government public rallies have been held in major cities in recent weeks.
Announcing the ban, the prime minister, Imran Khan, said on national television:
We have decided to ban public gatherings in the country, including ours planned over the weekend, as large crowds help in the spread of the virus.
There were 2,128 new cases registered on Sunday, the fourth day that the daily increase has been above 2,000. The country has registered a total 359,032 coronavirus cases and 7,160 deaths.
Updated at 2.18pm GMT
Moderna’s vaccine is better news for the developing world and middle-income countries than last week’s announcement from Pfizer and BionNTech, writes Michael Safi, the Guardian’s international correspondent.
It can be stored at -20 degrees centigrade for about six months, according to the researchers behind the breakthrough, and for about a month at 2 to 8 degrees – meaning it can be kept in refrigerators of the kind found in most homes.
A white paper from the German shipping company DHL estimated that, logistically speaking, a vaccine of Moderna’s profile could be distributed in more than 60 countries covering about 5bn people. That is twice as many people as the Pfizer/BionNTech candidate, which requires storage at -80 degrees.
But getting access to the vaccine will be a major hurdle for less wealthy countries. The US, which has invested about USbn in the development of the Moderna formulation, has reserved 100m doses. Canada and Japan have more than 50m doses each. Switzerland and Qatar have also struck deals for access.
Moderna does not yet have a supply agreement with the Covax Facility, a global compact to distribute successful vaccines equitably around the world. Even if a deal with Covax is struck, priority may go to the countries above and others who made their deals earlier.
So a vaccine that can reach most of the world may be in sight – but it is likely to be many months, and possibly years, before they can get it.
Angela Merkel is weighing up new restrictions to give Germany’s “soft” lockdown a harder bite, national media reported before a crucial meeting between the chancellor and state premiers, Philip Oltermann reports from Berlin.
People could be asked to limit their social interactions in private to only one set second household, and forgo any kind of party until Christmas Eve, according to a draft proposal cited by several news outlets including Der Spiegel.
The plans include vulnerable people in hospitals or elderly care homes being supplied with FFP2 exhalation-valve masks at a reduced price, and other citizens advised to quarantine at home for up to seven days, even if they display only the symptoms of an ordinary cold.
Hygiene requirements at schools could also be tightened, with teachers and students of all year groups asked to wear face masks on the entire campus and throughout lessons.
Moderna Inc said on Monday its experimental vaccine was 94.5% effective in preventing Covid-19 based on interim data from a late-stage clinical trial, becoming the second US company in a week to report results that far exceed expectations.
Following are reactions to the news.
Albert Bourla, the chief executive of Pfizer, said on Twitter:
I am thrilled to hear the good news coming out of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine development programme. Our companies share a common goal – defeating this dreaded disease – and today we congratulate everyone at Moderna and share in the joy of their encouraging results.
Andrew Hill, senior visiting research fellow in the department of pharmacology at the University of Liverpool, said:
This vaccine would be much easier to transport and administer than the one from Pfizer. Also the preliminary evidence suggests that it can prevent severe Covid-19 disease. However, the Moderna vaccine is more expensive and there are fewer doses available in the next year.”
“No vaccine company has enough supplies available to protect everyone in need. We will need all the available vaccines with over 90% efficacy to cover global demand.”
Eleanor Riely, professor of immunology and infectious disease at the University of Edinburgh, said:
Although the numbers are small, this trial also gives an indication that vaccination is effective in older and BAME individuals and prevents severe disease, all of which are key to allowing the world to start opening up again. The absolute prerequisite for a Covid-19 vaccine is that it stops people becoming ill enough to require hospital treatment and stops people dying. The preliminary data reported here suggest that this vaccine – and by extension, the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine – will achieve this goal.
The safety data also look promising. The side-effects of vaccination appear to be in line with those typically seen for other adult vaccinations, including the seasonal influenza vaccination which is administered in many millions of doses every year.
One important unknown is whether this vaccine, or any of the vaccines currently in trials, prevents disease transmission. It is likely that vaccines that prevent symptomatic disease will reduce the duration and level of infectiousness, and thus reduce transmission, but we don*t yet know if this effect will be large enough to make any meaningful difference to the spread of the virus within communities.
But, overall, this is excellent news. Having more than one source of an effective vaccine will increase the global supply and, with luck, help us all to get back to something like normal sometime in 2021.
Updated at 1.50pm GMT
The new coronavirus was circulating in Italy in September 2019, a study by the National Cancer Institute (INT) of the Italian city of Milan shows, signalling that it might have spread beyond China earlier than thought.
The World Health Organization has said the new coronavirus and Covid-19, the respiratory disease it causes, were unknown before the outbreak was reported in Wuhan, central China, late last year. But it has said “the possibility that the virus may have silently circulated elsewhere cannot be ruled out”.
The WHO said on Monday it was reviewing the results from Italy and additional information published there at the weekend and was seeking clarification.
Updated at 1.51pm GMT
The European commission said the positive results announced on Monday by the US biotech firm Moderna for its Covid-19 vaccine candidate were encouraging and said the bloc was working to sign more supply deals with vaccine makers.
“More encouraging news from Covid-19 vaccine trials w/@moderna,” EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said on Twitter. “Signing contract w/ @pfizer & @BioNTech—Group later this week, more to come soon,” she added.
Last week, the commission reached a deal with Pfizer and BioNTech on the supply of their potential Covid-19 vaccine, with a formal signature of the contract expected later this week.
Updated at 12.42pm GMT
The Malaysian government has tightened curbs on movement in an area where Top Glove Corp Bhd worker dormitories are located, to enable targeted coronavirus screenings on workers and residents as infections rise, the security ministry said on Monday.
The curbs, in effect from Tuesday until the end of the month, will affect 13,190 workers and close to 1,200 residents in Klang, about 40km west of Kuala Lumpur, the senior minister of security, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, said at a media conference.
“(This enforcement) will allow the health ministry to continue targeted screenings on workers and residents in the area,” he said.
There had been 215 cases of the virus recorded in the area by Sunday.
Top Glove, the world’s largest medical glove manufacturer, is also required to screen all workers at its local factory and all dormitories for workers at that factory, the minister said.
Top Glove said in a bourse filing it will seek clarification with the relevant authorities about the implementation of the curbs.
“Meanwhile, we will continue to adhere to Covid-19 preventive standard operating procedures on a stringent basis.
Disinfection exercises at our premises and accommodation are also conducted regularly, with all the necessary precautionary measures strictly in place,” it said.
Updated at 12.43pm GMT
Ireland’s Covid-19 rates have started increasing again despite continued maximum level restrictions, sparking concern that complacency and fatigue were letting the virus regain momentum.
The five-day case count has risen to more than 400 per day, reversing a downward trend since authorities declared a new lockdown on 19 October, when daily cases were exceeding 1,000.
Ireland has one of the lowest 14-day incidence rates in the European Union but the chief medical officer, Tony Holohan, on Sunday expressed concern at rising numbers despite continued travel limits and closure of non-essential retail.
“There are examples of small numbers of people congregating for social purposes and simply ignoring the important public health messages. They are putting our collective progress at risk,” he told a news conference. “We are also seeing a number of outbreaks across the country. These include outbreaks in association with funerals”
To avoid importing cases the government has urged Irish people abroad to not return over Christmas. However, more than 1,300 seats have been booked on Ryanair and Aer Lingus flights from London in the days before 25 December.
Updated at 12.43pm GMT
Hello, My name is Sarah Marsh and I am a news reporter for the Guardian. I am taking over the global blog while my colleague Damien takes a break. Please get in touch via any of the channels below to share any news tips, or comments while I work. Thanks
A vaccine will not by itself halt the coronavirus pandemic, the head of the World Health Organization has said, as the agency’s data showed the number of infections around the world on Saturday hit a new high.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said:
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, we knew that a vaccine would be essential for bringing the pandemic under control. But it’s important to emphasise that a vaccine will complement the other tools we have, not replace them.
Initial supply of Covid-19 vaccines will be limited, so health workers, older people and other at-risk populations will be prioritised. That will hopefully reduce the number of deaths and enable health systems to cope, but the virus will still have a lot room to move.
The WHO’s figures for Saturday showed that 660,905 coronavirus cases were reported to the UN health agency, setting a new high water mark.
That number, and the 645,410 registered on Friday, surpassed the previous daily record high of 614,013 recorded on 7 November.
Updated at 12.44pm GMT
Moderna says its mRNA Covid vaccine is 95% effective
The race for a coronavirus vaccine has received another shot in the arm with the US biotech firm Moderna becoming the latest to reveal impressive results from phase 3 trials of its jab, writes Ian Sample, the Guardian’s science editor.
An interim analysis released on Monday, and based on 95 patients with confirmed Covid infections, found the candidate vaccine has an efficacy of 94.5%. The company said it now plans to apply to the US regulator, the Food and Drug Administration, for emergency-use authorisation in the coming weeks. In the trial, 90 of the patients received the placebo with the remaining five the vaccine.
The results are the latest encouraging news to emerge from the breakneck effort to develop a vaccine against coronavirus and follow a similar interim analysis earlier this month from a collaboration between Pfizer and the German firm BioNTech, which suggest its vaccine is 90% effective at preventing illness.
The Moderna vaccine is not expected to be available outside the US until next year.
Here is the full story:
Updated at 12.07pm GMT
Belgium "abandoned" elderly to Covid deaths, says Amnesty
Authorities in Belgium “abandoned” thousands of elderly people who died in nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic, violating their rights by denying hospital treatment to many who were infected, Amnesty International has said.
An investigation by the human rights organisation has claimed that authorities weren’t quick enough in implementing measures to protect nursing home residents and staff during this period, failing to protect their human rights.
Between March and October, Amnesty International said “a staggering” 61.3% of all Covid-19 deaths in Belgium – the world’s worst affected country by deaths per capita, according to the Worldometers website – took place in nursing homes.
Amnesty International said one of the reasons so many people died in nursing homes is because infected residents weren’t transferred to hospitals to receive treatment.
Philippe Hensmans, the director of Amnesty International Belgium, said:
The results of our investigation allow us to affirm that [care homes] and their residents were abandoned by our authorities until this tragedy was publicly denounced and the worst of the first phase of the pandemic was over.
Even as nursing homes were overwhelmed and the death toll climbed, the country’s hospitals weathered the crisis, with their intensive care units never reached their 2,000-bed capacity.
Vincent Fredericq, the general secretary of the care homes federation Femarbel, told Amnesty International that many residents in need of medical assistance were left behind.
Everyone was struck by the images of the Italian and Spanish hospitals. These situations had a great impact on our federal decision-makers, who said from the outset that it was absolutely necessary to avoid overloading intensive care. Nursing homes have been relegated to second line and residents and staff have been the victims.
Belgium, a country of 11.5 million, has reported more than 535,939 confirmed virus cases – 46,167 per million – and 14,421 deaths linked to the coronavirus – 1,242 per million.
Updated at 12.45pm GMT
We have more from Reuters on the tough new measures expected to be agreed in Germany in a meeting between state leaders and the chancellor, Angela Merkel, later on Monday.
Earlier, we reported how they would include compulsory mask-wearing at schools and drastic restrictions on household gatherings. A draft document of the measures, seen by Reuters, also said people would be urged to avoid private parties completely in the coming weeks.
The document says Germany expects to gradually overcome the pandemic after winter thanks to warmer weather and hopefully the start of vaccinations.
According to the proposals, which could still change pending talks between the federal and 16 regional governments, private gatherings in public will only be possible for people from one household with two people from another household, compared with a maximum of 10 people from two households now.
An exemption from wearing masks at school for some elementary pupils will be scrapped and all classes will be halved to allow more space between students.
All people considered vulnerable will be eligible once a week for one heavy-duty face mask, also known as FFP2.
Updated at 12.45pm GMT
Hullo! This is Damien Gayle taking the reins on the live blog now for the rest of the working day here in the UK.
If you have any interesting coronavirus-related news, suggestions or comments from your part of the world, that you think is worth our including on the blog, please drop me a line, either via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter DM to @damiengayle.
Swiss authorities say infections rose by 12,839 cases since Friday. The total confirmed cases in Switzerland and the neighbouring principality Liechtenstein increased to 269,974 and the death toll rose by 198 to 3,158, while hospitalisations went up by 483.
Updated at 11.15am GMT
Malaysia has reported 1,103 new cases, raising the total number of infections to 48,520. The health ministry also recorded four new deaths, taking the total number of fatalities to 313.
As Russia reports its own worst daily increase, authorities in Moscow have turned to a temporary hospital built inside an ice rink.
The country of about 145 million people has started opening temporary clinics and repurposing hospitals in the capital and other cities to relieve the strain on its medical system.
In Moscow, the Krylatskoe Ice Palace, known for hosting international speed skating competitions, is now on the frontline after being converted into a temporary hospital. It opened last month.
Though better resourced than other regions, authorities in Moscow are under severe pressure. They reported 6,360 new infections in the Russian capital on Monday.
More than 1,300 hospital beds equipped with oxygen tanks cover the former ice rink’s 400-metre speed skating track, with more than 100 doctors and nurses deployed.
“Only its design differentiates it from a regular hospital,” the chief doctor, Andrei Shkoda, told Reuters. The facility, he said, is equipped with all necessary equipment to treat and diagnose the illness, including a CT scanner. It is treating about 600 people, with 60-80 new patients being admitted and released every day.
We prepared very well, which wasn’t the case in the spring. Since then, we have prepared clinical protocols, gained experience in the fight against the coronavirus.
Updated at 11.16am GMT
Iran suffers worst daily caseload increase
Iran has reported its greatest daily increase in infections, with a further 13,053 recorded, while 486 more people died over 24 hours, the country’s health ministry has said.
The government has said it will impose stricter restrictions, with a health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari telling state TV the total number of infected cases has reached 775,121, while the country’s total number of fatalities has increased to 41,979.
Updated at 11.17am GMT
The latest surge in the number of infections in the Indian capital, New Delhi – which has swamped its intensive care wards and killed hundreds of people – has passed its peak, the city’s top health official has claimed, dismissing fears of another lockdown.
Pointing to a decline in the city’s positivity rate, New Delhi’s minister of health, Satyendar Jain, told the ANI news agency:
I can definitely tell you that the peak is gone and cases will slowly come down now.
He said there was “no chance” of another lockdown, even as authorities prepared hundreds of additional intensive care beds and increased capacity to conduct more than 100,000 tests a day.
“We are analysing the data daily and keeping a watch on the positivity,” Jain said. Delhi has been carrying out an average of 55,000 tests a day.
The city’s positivity rate – the percentage of people who test positive of all those tested – has declined since early November. But it rose again on Sunday, when fewer people were tested owing to a major festival on the weekend, possibly skewing the findings, an official said.
New Delhi has seen what authorities have called a third wave that has killed more than 600 people in the past week, even as cases in other parts of the country have declined.
India has confirmed more than 8.8m cases; the word’s second-highest number. But the number of new daily cases has fallen since a peak in mid-September. India has recorded 129,635 deaths.
Updated at 11.17am GMT
It is too early to claim victory, even if recent data show some encouraging signs, the French health minister, Olivier Véran, has warned. He told reporters that authorities are in the process of gradually regaining control over the epidemic. But he added:
We haven’t defeated the virus yet.
Updated at 11.17am GMT
Pakistan has recorded its highest daily numbers of coronavirus infections since July on each of the last four days as a second wave gathers momentum.
There were 2,128 new cases registered on Sunday, the fourth day that the daily increase has been above 2,000. More than 7% of people tested on Sunday were found to have contracted the virus, compared with between 2% and 3% during most of the last four months.
Dr Seemin Jamali, the executive director of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, which deals with Covid-19 cases in the country’s largest city of Karachi, told Reuters:
No one followed safety precautions, and we are seeing the results. It is high time people realise, or we will continue to suffer.
After a peak of more than 6,800 daily infections in June, the number fell to a low of 213 in August, and remained below 700 for most of the last three months. The country has registered 359,032 cases in total and 7,160 deaths.
Earlier this month, the government ruled out a complete lockdown and decided to continue the “smart lockdown” policy with strict implementation of safety guidelines given by the national command and operation centre (NCOC) – the federal government’s central body dealing with the pandemic.
The country’s last comprehensive lockdown was lifted in May. Several huge religious and anti-government public rallies have been held in major cities in recent weeks.
Updated at 9.58am GMT
Indonesia has reported 3,535 new infections, taking the total number to 470,648. Data from the country’s health ministry website also shows 85 new deaths, bringing the total to 15,296.
Indonesia has the highest numbers of both cases and deaths in south-east Asia.
Updated at 9.58am GMT
Angela Merkel to push for more curbs in Germany
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, will push for tougher curbs, including masks in all schools, smaller class sizes and drastic limits on contacts, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports.
Outside work or school, contact between people should also be “restricted to those from another fixed household”, according to a proposal by Merkel’s office that is due to be put to regional leaders of Germany’s 16 states on Monday.
Europe’s biggest economy began a new round of shutdowns in November, closing restaurants, cultural venues and leisure facilities. But, while new cases are plateauing, the daily numbers are still too high for officials to determine the infection chain and thereby break the transmission.
As part of the proposals, all private parties should be cancelled until Christmas and children should pick just one specific friend to meet up with outside school hours.
To ensure schools are kept open as long as possible, the chancellery has also suggested that, without exception, classes be “broken up into fixed groups, where the size of groups in classrooms are halved compared to normal operations”.
An alternative is to use larger rooms for classes, according to the draft, AFP reports.
Updated at 10.03am GMT
The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, who is self-isolating after coming into contact with someone who later tested positive, was pictured standing next to Lee Anderson, the MP for Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, inside Downing Street on Thursday. The men appear to be less than 2 metres apart and neither is wearing a mask.
Quizzed about why neither man was wearing a face covering, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, has told Sky News:
They are socially distanced, and the critical thing is, of course, as prime minister you do meet people.
Pressed on the absence of face coverings, Hancock eventually said they were not always worn around No 10. Asked if he used one when there, he said:
Not always, no, because the Covid-secure guidelines for that building don’t require it at all times. Different workplaces have different rules, according to what is appropriate there.
Updated at 8.56am GMT
The Philippines’ health ministry has recorded 1,738 new infections and seven additional deaths; the lowest daily increase in casualties in nearly three months.
The ministry has said total confirmed cases increased to 409,574, while deaths reached 7,839. Despite a downward trend in the number of cases in more recent weeks, this was not the time to be complacent, the health ministry undersecretary, Maria Rosario Vergeire, has told a news conference.
Updated at 8.18am GMT
Russia reports worst daily increase
Moscow has recorded its greatest daily increase in caseload; confirming 22,778 new infections across Russia on Monday. They include 6,360 in the capital, bringing the national tally to 1,948,603.
Authorities also reported 303 deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the official death toll to 33,489.
The UK’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, is well after coming into contact with someone with Covid-19 and will drive the government forward via Zoom, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said. He told Sky News:
He’s well, he’s absolutely full of beans. He’ll be, I’ve got no doubt, driving things forward this week by Zoom.
Johnson said on Sunday the NHS’s test and trace scheme had ordered him to self-isolate for two weeks.
When Johnson was infected in March, he tried to work through the illness “in denial” – but ended up wearing an oxygen mask in an intensive care unit and was ultimately out of action for almost a month.
He later said he had fought for his life as the state prepared for the unthinkable: the possible death in office of a prime minister.
Updated at 8.19am GMT
That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan, from planet earth.
My colleague Kevin Rawlinson will be bringing you the latest for the next few hours.
If you’d like to read about the SpaceX mission today, the launch pad is below:
Here are the key developments from the last few hours:
- The White House is coming under growing pressure to allow transition talks to begin amid a terrifying surge in coronavirus cases that is pushing hospital systems across the US to the brink of collapse. As Donald Trump insisted he would not concede defeat – despite tweeting that Biden “won” last week’s election – Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, said on Sunday it was essential that a “seamless transition” begins quickly, given the severity of the pandemic.
- UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, is self-isolating after coming into contact with an MP who has subsequently tested positive for Covid-19, Downing Street said on Sunday.The prime minister was present at a 35-minute meeting with a small group of Conservative MPs on Thursday morning. One of them, Lee Anderson, subsequently developed symptoms of Covid-19 and has tested positive. Downing Street said the prime minister was “well” and insisted that No 10 was a Covid-secure workplace but that test and trace had advised the prime minister that, because of factors including the length of the meeting, he should self-isolate as a precaution.
- The US passed 11m coronavirus cases just one week after confirming its ten-millionth case. More than a million cases were recorded in the country over the last week, which saw four days in a row of world record infection totals.The current US total, according to Johns Hopkins University, is 11,003,469. At least 246,000 people have died in the country.The global case total is 54m and the death toll stands at 1.3m.
- Michigan and Washington on Sunday joined several other states in announcing renewed efforts to combat the coronavirus, and as many Americans prepare to observe a Thanksgiving holiday marked by the pandemic. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration ordered high schools and colleges to stop in-person classes, closed restaurants to indoor dining and suspended organized sports — including the football playoffs — in an attempt to curb the state’s spiking case numbers. “We are at the precipice and we need to take some action,” said Whitmer.
- Covid-19 testing capacity in the UK is to be more than doubled, with major new laboratories to open early next year in a sign the government is planning for the pandemic to persist despite hopes for a number of vaccine candidates.
- China’s retail sales continued a general recovery in October, official data showed Monday, on the back of a national holiday and policies aimed at boosting spending. Although China has largely brought the coronavirus under control, spending has been slower to recover as the world still grapples with the impact of the pandemic.Retail sales in the world’s second-largest economy rose 4.3% on-year last month, Beijing’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Monday.
China’s consumer spending picks up in October
China’s retail sales continued a general recovery in October, official data showed Monday, on the back of a national holiday and policies aimed at boosting spending, AFP reports.
Although China has largely brought the coronavirus under control, spending has been slower to recover as the world still grapples with the impact of the pandemic.
Retail sales in the world’s second-largest economy rose 4.3% on-year last month, Beijing’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Monday.
At a press briefing, spokesman Fu Linghui said the pandemic “has dealt a second blow to countries” including the United States and those in Europe, and that global recovery had “further stalled” as a result.
“The domestic economy is still in recovery, with multiple challenges to be conquered before a full recovery,” Fu added.
While the retail figure is lower than the five percent growth expected by analysts polled by Bloomberg, it still continued an upward trend as spenders gradually began to open their wallets again, particularly around the week-long national holiday in October.
Catering sector revenue growth turned positive for the first time this year, the NBS said.
Research firm Oxford Economics said China’s recovery is on a “reasonably firm footing and will continue in the fourth quarter”.
Industrial production growth in October remained the same as the month before, but continued to rise more than expected at 6.9%.
Complaints about parcels deliveries to Citizens Advice have trebled since coronavirus hit, as shoppers turned to online orders.
Ahead of the busiest period of the year for home deliveries, the charity is reminding consumers that it is the seller’s responsibility to deliver the items to the buyer’s door, and consumers are entitled to a refund if its service fails.
The various restrictions on shopping that have been in place since March have led to a surge in online shopping. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that in May, online accounted for 33% of retail sales, compared with 19% a year earlier:
Hello earthlings, I have just spent a thrilling day blogging about space. But even the SpaceX NASA launch was not untouched by the virus, with SpaceX founder Elon Musk watching the launch remotely after he said that he “most likely” had coronavirus.
The four crew members on board the Dragon capsule will luckily get to watch the next six months of the pandemic from far above the world.
Baby Yoda will be with them:
Thanks all for your company and comments today. I’m handing over to my indefatigable colleague Helen Sullivan. Be well, and look after each other.
Not content with emerging already from a recession (see earlier post), Japan is now deploying a vaguely anthropomorphic robot in a shop to make sure people are wearing masks and observing social distancing requirements…
His/her/its name is Robovie…
Young and previously healthy people with ongoing symptoms of Covid-19 are showing signs of damage to multiple organs four months after the initial infection, a study suggests.
The findings are a step towards unpicking the physical underpinnings and developing treatments for some of the strange and extensive symptoms experienced by people with “long Covid”, which is thought to affect more than 60,000 people in the UK. Fatigue, brain fog, breathlessness and pain are among the most frequently reported effects.
Japan’s economy rebounds sharply
Japan’s economy grew at the fastest pace on record in the third quarter, rebounding sharply from its biggest postwar slump, as improved exports and consumption helped the country emerge from the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
However, analysts painted the sharp bounceback as a one-off from the depths of recession, and cautioned that any further rebound in the economy will be moderate as a resurgence in infections at home and abroad clouds the outlook.
The world’s third-largest economy expanded an annualised 21.4% in July-September, beating a median market forecast for an 18.9% gain and marking the first increase in four quarters, government data showed on Monday.
It was the biggest increase since comparable data became available in 1980 and followed a 28.8% plunge in the second quarter, when consumption took a hit from lock-down measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
“The strong growth in July-September was likely a one-off rebound from an extraordinary contraction caused by the lock-down steps,” said Yoshiki Shinke, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.
“The economy may not fall off a cliff. But given uncertainty over the outlook, I would err on the side of caution in terms of the pace of any recovery,” he said.
The rebound was driven largely by a record 4.7% surge in private consumption, as households boosted spending on cars, leisure and restaurants, a government official told a briefing.
But capital expenditure fell 3.4%, shrinking for a second straight quarter in a worrying sign for policymakers hoping to revitalise the economy with private-sector spending.
Economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said the economy still had over 30 trillion yen (7 billion) of negative output gap, or spare capacity, part of which must be filled by a new stimulus package now in the works.
Without additional stimulus, Japan may experience a fiscal cliff next year as the effect of two big packages deployed earlier this year – worth a combined .2 trillion – peter out.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has instructed his cabinet to come up with another package, which analysts say could be sized anywhere between 10-30 trillion yen.
Despite some signs of improvement in recent months, analysts expect the world’s third-largest economy to shrink 5.6% in the current fiscal year ending in March 2021 and say it could take years to return to pre-Covid levels.
Updated at 7.25am GMT
‘We are at the precipice’: US states take action to halt coronavirus spread
Michigan and Washington on Sunday joined several other states in announcing renewed efforts to combat the coronavirus as more than 11 million cases of Covid-19 have now been reported in the United States — with the most recent million coming in less than a week — and as many Americans prepare to observe a Thanksgiving holiday marked by the pandemic.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration ordered high schools and colleges to stop in-person classes, closed restaurants to indoor dining and suspended organized sports — including the football playoffs — in an attempt to curb the state’s spiking case numbers.
The order also restricts indoor and outdoor residential gatherings, closes some entertainment facilities and bans gyms from hosting group exercise classes.
The new rules, set to last three weeks, are extensive but not as sweeping the Democratic governor’s stay-at-home order this past spring, when she faced criticism from a Republican-led legislature that refused to extend the state’s coronavirus emergency declaration and authorised a lawsuit challenging Whitmer’s authority to combat the pandemic.
She faced pushback from those who opposed the decision to toughen rather than relax what already was one of the nation’s strictest stay-home orders.
“The situation has never been more dire,” Whitmer, who authorities say also was the target of a kidnapping plot spurred on by anger over her earlier virus measures, said at a Sunday evening news conference. “We are at the precipice and we need to take some action.”
The directives from Michigan come on the same day that Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced the state would enforce new restrictions on businesses and social gatherings for the next month as it, too, continued to combat a rising number of cases.
Starting Tuesday, gyms and some entertainment centres in Washington will be required to close their indoor services.
Retail stores, including grocery stores, will be ordered to limit indoor capacity and multiple-household, indoor social gatherings will be prohibited unless attendees have quarantined for 14 days or tested negative for Covid-19 and quarantined for a week. By Wednesday, restaurants and bars will again be limited to outdoor dining and to-go service.
The actions also follow grim milestones passed by Texas and California last week as the states each marked more than 1 million confirmed Covid-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
In Texas, sporting events were canceled and at least one city added mobile morgues in anticipation of hospital-overwhelming virus deaths.
Meanwhile, in California, the nation’s most populous state and the first one to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, officials urged those planning holiday gatherings to take strict precautions, including keeping visits small, outdoors and under two hours long.
And in North Dakota, a previously resistant Governor Doug Burgum ordered a statewide mask mandate and imposed several business restrictions late Friday in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus that has stressed the state’s hospital capacity.
The Republican heeded the advice of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to require face coverings. Bars, restaurants and other venues were also ordered to reduce capacity.
Updated at 5.53am GMT
Covid-19 testing capacity in the UK to be more than doubled
Covid-19 testing capacity in the UK is to be more than doubled, with major new laboratories to open early next year in a sign the government is planning for the pandemic to persist despite hopes for a number of vaccine candidates.
The facilities, one in Leamington Spa and the other in an unidentified location in Scotland, will employ up to 4,000 people and increase the number of PCR tests – the gold-standard swab tests already used across the UK – that can be processed daily by 600,000, from 520,000 today.
Algeria imposed new coronavirus restrictions on Sunday, closing sport and cultural centres as well as beaches after a spike in infections.
The government called on Algerians to fight what it called a “concerning phase” of the pandemic.
Algeria has registered more than 68,000 infections and at least 2,100 deaths, according to the ministry of health, with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune hospitalised in Germany with the virus last month.
Under the new restrictions, announced by the prime minister’s office, a curfew will be imposed overnight across much of the country.
Sports halls, recreational and leisure areas, beaches, youth and cultural centres will be shut for 15 days.
Businesses are required to close from 3pm, with cafes and restaurants limited to takeaway.
The government also reiterated there was a ban on large public gatherings, saying they help spread the virus.
Algeria has been rocked by large anti-government rallies, and an attempt to bury the movement with a referendum to revise the constitution flopped with record low turnout.
Updated at 3.54am GMT
Six thousand British volunteers are to be injected with an experimental Covid vaccine modelled on an Ebola jab.
It is the third Covid vaccine to enter large-scale clinical trials in the UK. Pursuing multiple candidates is essential to guarantee UK supply and ensure that most effective vaccine is identified, researchers stressed.
Linda Geddes reports:
Trump under pressure to concede election, begin transition: Covid-19 infection rate surging
Ed Pilkington reports from New York:
The White House is coming under growing pressure from President-elect Joe Biden, as well as senior Republicans and health experts, to allow transition talks to begin amid a terrifying surge in coronavirus cases that is pushing hospital systems across the US to the brink of collapse.
Updated at 3.04am GMT
Xinhua is reporting:
The Chinese mainland reported no new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases on Sunday, the National Health Commission has reported.
A total of eight imported Covid-19 cases were reported across the mainland Sunday, the commission said in its daily report.
Sunday also saw one new suspected case recorded in Shanghai, who had arrived from outside the mainland.
No new deaths related to the disease were reported.
Across the Pacific:
The French Pacific territory of Wallis and Futuna has recorded just its second case of Covid-19.
The infected person arrived from France last month, and tested positive for the novel coronavirus at the end of the compulsory quarantine period.
Of France’s Pacific territories, Wallis and Futuna, and New Caledonia have largely escaped the virus, with few confirmed cases and no community transmission. French Polynesia however, having re-opened its borders in August, has recorded almost 12,000 cases.
The US territory of the Northern Mariana Islands recorded another two cases at the weekend, both imported from Guam.
The container ship which brought Covid-19 into the port in American Samoa’s capital Pago Pago is back in the port, being unloaded.
When the Fesco Askold arrived from neighbouring Samoa last week, three crew members aboard tested positive for the novel coronavirus and the ship was sent back out to sea. It has finally returned to port where it is being unloaded by the ship’s crew, rather than stevedores on land.
Samoa remains Covid-free, American Samoa has recorded just three cases.
Australia has done a remarkable job in suppressing Covid-19, and reducing community transmission of the virus to single digit figures. But a new outbreak in the state of South Australia – now up to 17 confirmed cases – after a full seven months without a community case, has put the state back on high alert.
Melissa Davey reports.
Germany has warned its anti-coronavirus measures are likely to stay in place for several months.
The predictions came as the World Health Organization unveiled data showing a record daily number of 660,905 new Covid-19 cases over the weekend.
“We will have to live with considerable precautions and restrictions for at least the next four to five months,” Germany’s economy minister Peter Altmaier told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
The government is to meet Monday to decide whether to extend new measures provisionally in place until month’s end and as neighbouring Austria revealed it is planning mass testing as a second lockdown comes into force.
The race for a vaccine continues, as does the effort to establish a logistics chain to get it to people all over the world. The head of drug-maker Sanofi says: “we will need to have several winners at the end of this race”.
The coronavirus vaccine being developed by Sanofi won’t need to be super-cooled and a normal refrigerator will suffice, the Paris-based drugmaker’s France chief Olivier Bogillot said Sunday.
His comments came days after American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech announced that their vaccine had proven 90 percent effective in preventing Covid-19 infections in ongoing Phase 3 trials involving more than 40,000 people.
The companies said they expect to supply up to 50 million vaccine doses globally in 2020, and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.
However, Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored at -70 degrees Celsius (-94 degrees Fahrenheit) or else it falls apart, well beyond the capability of most hospital freezers let alone domestic appliances.
Rachel Silverman, a policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, has already warned that maintaining the Pfizer vaccine’s “ultra-cold chain” from factory to patients’ arms constitutes “an enormous logistical challenge even in the West”.
“Our vaccine will be like the ‘flu vaccine, you can keep it in your refrigerator,” this avoiding the problem, Bogillot told the CNews channel.
“This will be an advantage for some countries,” he added.
The Sanofi vaccine, one of many in development, will be available for distribution next June, Bogillot added.
The results of the Phase 2 tests, involving hundreds of people, will be made public in early December, he added. If those results are positive then Phase 3 trials involving thousands of people will begin, alongside mass production.
Eleven of the vaccines under development have already begun Phase 3 trials.
The Pfizer vaccine is “a little more advanced” in the development process, said Bogillot, but “one laboratory is not going to be able to supply the doses for the whole planet.
“We will need to have several winners at the end of this race.”
The Sanofi product will also be made avaiable at an “affordable” price he said, without giving details.
Some more detail here on the extraordinary news in the UK, that the prime minister Boris Johnson is back in isolation after potentially being exposed to Covid-19 again. Political editor Heather Stewart writes:
Boris Johnson was forced into self-isolation on Sunday night just as he embarked on a crucial week designed to restore calm and project an air of competence after a vicious No 10 turf war.
There were concerns that Covid-19 had returned to Downing Street as the result of a 35-minute meeting between the prime minister and a group of Tory MPs at No 10, one of whom subsequently tested positive for the virus.
Johnson was pictured standing next to Lee Anderson, MP for Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, inside Downing Street on Thursday. The men appear to be less than 2 metres apart and neither is wearing a mask.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered a tightening of state emergency anti-coronavirus systems in the face of the worldwide pandemic, as he presided over a meeting of the politburo of the ruling Workers Party, state news agency KCNA said on Monday.
The meeting came amid economic and political uncertainty surrounding the global Covid-19 pandemic that is putting additional pressure on the North’s economy, already battered by international sanctions aimed at stopping its nuclear program.
Making his first public appearance in 27 days, Kim stressed the need for the country to stay on high alert for the virus and to intensify its anti-epidemic work, KCNA reported.
North Korea had tested over 12,000 people and reported no confirmed cases of the coronavirus, as of early November, according to the World Health Organization.
A total of 6,173 people, eight of whom were foreigners, were detected as suspected cases and 174 people were quarantined in the last week of October, the WHO said.
More than 54 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 1,315,881 have died, according to the Johns Hopkins hospital.
Kim had called on his country to embark on an 80-day campaign to attain its goals in every sector before a congress in January to decide a new five-year plan.
Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.
UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, is self-isolating after coming into contact with an MP who has subsequently tested positive for Covid-19, Downing Street said on Sunday.
The prime minister was present at a 35-minute meeting with a small group of Conservative MPs on Thursday morning. One of them, Lee Anderson, subsequently developed symptoms of Covid-19 and has tested positive.
Downing Street said the prime minister was “well” and insisted that No 10 was a Covid-secure workplace but that test and trace had advised the prime minister that, because of factors including the length of the meeting, he should self-isolate as a precaution.
Meanwhile the US has passed 11m coronavirus cases, just one week after confirming its ten-millionth case. More than a million cases were recorded in the country over the last week, which saw four days in a row of world record infection totals.
The current US total, according to Johns Hopkins University, is 11,003,469. At least 246,000 people have died in the country.
The global case total is 54m and the death toll stands at 1.3m.
Here are the other key developments from the last few hours:
- The Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has said that the country will follow in Slovakia’s footsteps by mass testing its population to get out of lockdown in time for Christmas.
- The UK reported 24,962 new Covid cases on Sunday, down by 1,898 from Saturday’s 26,860.
- Italy has reported 546 Covid-related deaths, up from 544 the day before, the health ministry said on Sunday. The country also registered 33,979 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, down from 37,255 on Saturday.
- In a statement on Sunday, the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, declared “the general mobilisation of the nation and the government” after health authorities announced the highest ever number of daily cases in the country.
- India is expected to fly doctors in from other regions of the country to double its testing capacity in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus in the capital New Delhi.
- The prime minister of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Ambrose Dlamini, has tested positive for Covid-19 but is asymptomatic.
- France reports 302 deaths and 27,228 new cases in the last 24-hours, according to the French health ministry website.
- WHO registers highest Covid-19 cases in one-day over the weekend, reports AFP. Saturday’s figures of 660,905 and Friday’s 645,410 both surpassed the previous set highest daily total of cases which was recorded at 614,013 on 7 November.
Updated at 6.32am GMT
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